Mobile Wallets, Are You Finally Ready?

Before you start reading this fantastic blog, I have one question for you:

  • Do you use a regular wallet or a mobile wallet?

Maybe after this article, you will reconsider.

Believe it or not, paying for things with your phone is not a new concept. I was amazed to find out that in 1997 Coca Cola came out with the first digital payment system with several vending machines in Helsinki. They created a digital payment processing system that allowed customers to make payments by sending a text message. What a revolutionary idea, right! 

It took fourteen years for a major company like Google to launch their mobile wallet in 2011; Samsung and Apple followed suit in 2015, with Samsung Pay and Apple Pay. 

You would think that everyone would be familiar with mobile wallets and contactless payments by now, but believe me, we still have some work to do. That is why I created this blog.

 If you don’t know what a mobile wallet is, don’t worry. Investopedia has your back. They provided a simple but great definition for the mobile wallet: 

“A mobile wallet is a virtual wallet that stores payment card information on a mobile device. Mobile wallets are a convenient way for a user to make in-store payments and can be used at merchants listed with the mobile wallet service provider.”

Even though this technology has been around for over five years, it was only until 2020, due to the pandemic, customers were ready to utilize it. It doesn’t matter how many advantages technology brings if customers are not prepared to embrace it. We have seen this through history; two great examples are the QR code and the smartwatch. 

  • The QR (Quick Response code) was invented in 1994, but it wasn’t fully embraced until this past year.
  • Seiko launched the first smartwatch in 1998, but we had to wait for society to embrace this new technology, thanks to Apple and Fitbit making them mainstream.

Now is the time to embrace mobile payments and ditch the wallet.

So why ditch the wallet? You may ask. 

Well wallets are bulky, easy to misplace, and they can even cause you back and leg pain if you usually tend to carry them in your back pocket. 

Suppose those are not sufficient reasons for you to switch to a mobile wallet. Here are some reasons that have helped me make the change.

Safer – Since Covid I found myself thinking about dirty surfaces more than ever before (how often do they clean the machine, did the person before me wash his hands… You get the idea). Yeah, sure, I could use my contactless card, but I often find myself having to place the card extremely close to the POS (point of sale), and who knows how many people before me have done that. Mobile wallets offer a fast touchless payment alternative to contactless cards.

Secure – Mobile transactions are encrypted, which means that you are not sharing your bank account numbers with the merchant services. This encryption protects you from significant data breaches like the one suffered by Target in 2013, which resulted in 40 million customers’ credit and debit card stolen information. Also, most mobile wallets require a double layer of security, requiring a PIN, fingerprint, or face recognition to complete the transaction.

Faster – Nothing is faster than using your mobile wallet to make payments. You don’t have to waste any time looking through your coat or purse for the right credit card because all the buying power is right on your phone.

Trendier – Let’s face it, mobile payments are in style. A study developed by the analyst firm eMarketer concluded that in 2020 in-store mobile payments usage grew 29% in the U.S., and they predicted that by 2025, half of the smartphone users would be utilizing their mobile wallets. The experts predict that the number of users will increase, and the amount of money per user will continue. 

I understand that ditching the wallet is almost impossible, especially considering that not all stores accept mobile payment and that my cell runs out of battery quite often. Still, the mobile payment solution future is bright. I predict many merchant services will start offering this option in the years to come, and the U.S. will follow suit to other countries like China.

After reading this blog, would you reconsider your stand in mobile wallets and give them a shot?

Don’t be afraid you don’t have anything to lose!

Fun Fact: My first job out of college was as a sales representative for Beacon Payments, a merchant service company in Boston. That is when my interest in digital payments started. 

Below are some links that I used to inspire myself while writing this blog.

https://www.clearviewfcu.org/Learn/about-financial-wellness/Blog/What-Is-a-Mobile-Wallet-and-Why-Is-It-Useful

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/payment-method-statistics-1276/

https://techcrunch.com/2021/04/05/fueled-by-pandemic-contactless-mobile-payments-to-surpass-half-of-all-smartphone-users-in-u-s-by-2025/

23 comments

  1. I currently do not use a mobile wallet, and yet after reading this blog, I feel like I am using a version of one. I no longer have a physical insurance card – a photo is saved on my phone. I do have a physical license and BC student ID, but I also have photos of those saved on my phone (in case I lose it or don’t want to hold up a line digging through my wallet). When I buy something from my phone, my credit card info is stored and inputted at a touch of a button. I recognize I am likely one step away from adopting an app for storing everything in one place.

    1. What a great idea. I am going to start doing that!

  2. I felt like this blog was speaking directly to me. I just recently discovered how great a mobile wallet can be, for many of the same reasons you spoke of. For example, I like to go for runs and often pick up a few groceries on the way back. I hate running with my wallet because it flops around in my pocket and gets in the way. Using Apple Wallet is the perfect solution because I’m bringing my phone with me anyway. That being said, I think it will be decades before (if ever) real wallets will ever be fully phased out. I still like to carry some cash on me, and some vendors still only accept cash. Now, one of my favorite delis did recently begin accepting Venmo, and if those types of merchants adopt some electronic payment platforms, I could see a path to extinction. @parkerrepko it’s interesting you keep photos of your ID cards on your phone: I wonder if one day we can have a verified drivers license (Rather than a photo) stored in an electronic wallet, so liquor stores or bars would accept it the same way a grocer accepts my electronic credit card.

  3. I feel the need to convert my payment methods after reading your blog! So I currently do not have Apple Pay and prefer using a credit card to complete my transactions – Its somewhat related but if I have an account/app with a retailer and my credit card information is already stored into it, I am more likely to make impulse buys rather than thinking it through. If I have to get up and get my wallet, about 80% of the time I end up talking myself out of buying the items in my cart. Because of this I am hesitant to jump on that bandwagon and have a mobile wallet. I feel like having to look for and swiping a physical card will make me more “aware” of my spending! I do see how it can be really convenient and hassle free since I’m always forgetting my wallet.

  4. You made a lot of good points, Carlos. I can definitely see the benefits of using a mobile wallet rather than a physical one. Unfortunately, I’m very comfortable with my physical wallet and the ability to carry not just my credit cards, IDs, and etc. but also being able to carry cash and change.
    My laundry system in my apartment is coin operated and I enjoy having cash on me for those rare situations that is cash only. So being able to carry change from when I use cash is incredibly helpful for when it’s time to do laundry.
    If the laundry system went card based instead of coin based, I’d be much more willing to change my wallet over to a fully mobile one. Until then I think I will use a hybrid of both systems.

    1. I am glad you like some of the points that I made. Laundry machines are definitely a barrier that a lot of us face. A contactless payment system for laundry machines would be a great solution. I believe full adaptation would take years to complete, and the hybrid system is phenomenal.

  5. I want to be friends with the person that has a wallet so heavy it causes back/leg pain. Just kidding! I think…

    Great post, Carlos! It got me thinking about the benefits of mobile wallets for children. My parents gave me a cell phone when I was 10 years old because my parents worked far from home and I spent quite a bit of time home alone. A 10 year old having a cellphone was unheard of then, but apparently thats the average age now. Parents typically start to trust their kids to use money around the same time. In my case (and friends), we were given cash. The problem with cash is it can run out and parents don’t know what the kid spent it on. I’m not a parent, but I would think parents would love the idea of mobile wallets because they can monitor spending easier and, potentially, transfer money for unplanned situations like failing to make lunch that day. If the child is mishandling the new responsibility, it can easily be locked/money pulled. Someone could argue that a debit card does the same thing, but that’s just another thing a kid would need to keep track of. And, let’s be honest…kids are not going to lose their phones!

    https://www.pandasecurity.com/en/mediacenter/panda-security/when-should-kids-get-smartphones/#:~:text=Surveys%20have%20shown%20that%20the,is%20a%20cause%20for%20concern.

    1. Bianca, I am glad you enjoyed the read. I still remember when I was given my first phone (flip phone). I thought I was the coolest kid on the planet, but my parents were just trying to keep track of my whereabouts. Like you mention, phones are an extraordinary tool to keep track of expenses. Also, they are plenty of apps that can help kids and adults manage their money.

  6. Definitely ready for mobile wallets. Can’t help but think of the old Seinfeld episode about exploding wallets though. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoPf98i8A0g

    1. Professor, what a great video! George definitely needs to make the switch.

    2. This was the first thing that came to mind when I was reading this. The old Costanza Wallet. You beat me to the punch

  7. I love the idea of Mobile wallets. But I am also hesitant to have all of my information in place. Maybe its just paranoia. I would not know what to do if I say forgot my phone somewhere, or if my battery dies (happens occasionally for me) or lost my phone. I would not only have lost my phone but also access to my cards. I also noticed that when I briefly used apple wallet for my debit card, I was making many more impulse buys because it was just so convenient! In college I normally would not have taken my wallet to class, but since I had my phone I would buy $5 lattes between classes regularly (guilty!)

    1. Kanal, I know how annoying losing a phone battery is. I have seen myself on multiple occasions. That is why I carry one card and one ID for emergency situations. Like you mention, more manageable payments translate into extra expending.

  8. You did an excellent job of selling the idea of a mobile wallet! By nature, I will always be resistant to this type of change, as I’m sure a lot of us feel that way. For example, I thought over the past few years I would never need a chip on my credit card and paying that way was a bit ridiculous. Now I can’t imagine paying in another way!

    I’m going to look into mobile wallets and try to get a better understanding of the technology and day-to-day use. After reading your blog, I can see myself using a mobile wallet sooner rather than later!

    1. Thank you for reading my blog! Making changes is always hard. I still remember when the EMV chip came out, and people complained about how long the transaction took. Fun fact EMV stands for (Europay, MasterCard, Visa).

  9. Loved your blog! I use it daily since I have an iPhone, definitely better than conventional methods of payment, totally agree!
    What will be the next thing, pay with the mind?

    1. Glad you loved it! I think the next big thing is already here. A Polish-British startup has created a microchip implant to make payments. Check my Twitter wall for more info.

  10. I think these will become more popular over time but not replace traditional wallets. As long as fees exist there will be at least some utility to the physical wallet. I myself carry almost zero cash and avoid ATMs like the plague. I do think however that it will take time to win over certain older segments of the population in terms of cybersecurity and digital literacy.

  11. I think you might have just converted me! I have mentioned in comments on other blog posts I consider myself an adopter of technology in the early majority. I feel a bit behind on utilizing apple pay for transactions. I currently tap to pay with my credit card and did not see an immediate benefit to digital payments. Safety is always a big concern and your explanation around safety is likely what will cause me to convert. Thank you for all of your insight!

  12. As someone who regularly leaves their home without their physical wallet the mobile wallet has become a life saver – I only wish places would also accept a mobile version of my license (which I believe is coming soon!) To be honest at first I was worried that mobile transactions weren’t as safe as swiping your card but after learning the intricacies of the security behind the mobile wallet I was sold. I’ll also share my dad, who used one of the very first computers purchased for his university and embraces all things innovation & Apple, is such a strong advocate of Apple Pay that I felt like if I didn’t jump on the band wagon I wouldn’t be allowed at family functions.

  13. I’ve found that although larger corporations offer applepay or other mobilewallet options, many local restaurants and stores do not accept it at all. After being a North End resident for the past 5 years I had to get used to carrying cash again, so I prefer the “hybrid” wallet. I.e. A phone case that carries my credit cards, IDs, and cash :)
    https://www.amazon.com/Phone-Wallets-Cases/s?k=Phone+Wallets+Cases.

  14. Interesting post! Wouldn’t be surprised if digital payments increase consumer spending as a byproduct. From a provider standpoint, I would encourage my consumers to use a digital wallet through more reward or loyalty programs; in that way, consumers may -on average- spend more in my store than if they relied on a cash payment system. Cash reminds shoppers to budget because of the associated physical action (taking money out of their wallet and counting the bills) where as digital payments simply require a fingerprint scan.

  15. Currently I use apple pay from time to time. I also use it beyond the store purchases. For example when reloading my funds on the dunkin app I do it via apple pay which I find is much easier than storing typing my card info into the app every time I have to reload. A question I have is this: Many credit cards today no longer have to be swiped. You see commericals all the time. You just hold the card in front of the scanner instead of the mobiled device. Maybe it’s a hybrid approach since in reality it likely still requires you to go into the wallet and take it out. Honesly I don’t find myself using mobile payments as much as I probably should. Your point about them being encrypted might have just changed that though. What I have found annoying in the past about mobile pay is that I thought it would remove the need to operate at all with the price scanner. That doesn’t end up being the case. If it’s a debit purchase you still have to enter your pin, you still have to select through options before using mobile pay, etc. I found this particular frustrating throughout the pandemic where when in a store mobile pay would be a super convenient way to stay safe as it avoids the need for touching screens that other people have touched but in reality that’s not really the case.

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